Most of us tend to have a cucumber lying around in the veg draw at the bottom of our fridge, slowly losing its mojo as pieces are chopped for salads or sandwiches. The cucumber is a trusty, reliable veg. It’s often one of the first finger foods given to toddlers and is a great supporting player in kid-friendly meals, but it rarely gets to be the star of the show.
But why not? Kids love cucumbers! They are silly and long and crunchy – even the name is fun to say. They keep well in the lunchbox, and the flavour is fairly mild, too, making them a great vehicle for stronger flavours.
Although we tend to think of cucumbers as vegetables, they are technically a fruit because they contain seeds. They are in the same family as courgettes and squashes, and the plants produce long, trailing vines that sprawl upwards or creep along the ground. There are actually dozens of different shapes and sizes, with some as tiny as your little finger or plump and round like a lemon.
Cucumbers are really fun for children to grow. They are ideal for greenhouses, but some varieties are suited to the outdoors. They can also be grown in pots and containers, making them ideal for small spaces like a school garden!
Cucumbers have been a big hit with the schools involved with Jamie’s Kitchen Garden Project. After harvesting their own cucumbers, we encourage the children to prepare them two different ways: one with herby, yoghurt dressing, and another dressed with balsamic and olives. You might be surprised to hear that Balsamic-dressed cucumbers with olives are a huge hit with the children. They absolutely love practising their knife skills, slicing the cucumber in half then scraping a teaspoon down the middle to collect the seeds. Children are always pleasantly surprised to find that when the seeds are removed the cucumber stays nice and crunchy before they get stuck in using the claw cutting technique to slice chunks for their salad.
Another winning activity for kids is pitting the olives with the palm of the hand; pushing down hard to pop the pip out of the skin. And of course, shaking up the dressing (in a jam jar!) is always a crowd-pleaser.
So, don’t let your cucumber go to waste this weekend! Get it out of the crisper and get your kids involved in preparing a delicious salad! And, of course, don’t forget to tell @jamieskgp all about it on Twitter!